Raising Good Children Without Religion



My husband and I both grew up in Catholic households. We attended church every Sunday and  CCD classes until we were both confirmed. I can only speak for myself, but I was never truly a believer in Catholicism, the church, or God. That was only cemented when I went away to Saint Michael’s College, which happened to be a Catholic college, but it was not the reason I attended. Anyhow, one of the liberal arts studies core requirements was a Christianity course. The course was taught by a priest who was not supportive of my involvement on the alpine ski team (I had to miss some Friday classes for ski races), nor did he seem that supportive of the academic support I received for my learning difference. I recall one Monday class in which I stayed behind to ask him for the handouts I missed on Friday and he threw a bunch of papers at me, and spoke in a harsh tone at me (maybe even yelled, but it was nearly 16 years ago so I don’t exactly recall). Perhaps he was having a bad day, but I had never been in the company of a priest who acted in such a way. I say this because my parents were friendly outside of our church with a couple of the priests. They came over for dinner or came to visit us at the beach. When my grandmother died a month later, whomever my mother spoke to at SMC, asked if she would like a priest sent to my dorm room to console me. Thankfully my mother turned down the offer as she knew I was in current turmoil with one particular priest! Now I am not saying this is what turned me off of religion, but it certainly didn’t help!

When my husband and I became engaged we began attending a non-denominational community church to see if we liked the minister enough to marry us. We both knew we did not want a big Catholic wedding, and I was quite adamant about not getting married in the church at all. We took quite a liking to the minister of our community church and he was kind enough to marry us in our venue of choice — atop a mountain overlooking a lake.

My husband and I spoke early on about having children. We knew we would have them right away, as we did not want to be old parents. We also discussed not bestowing upon them a certain religion, and allowing them to choose any religion later on in life, if they so desired. Since I was not tied to Catholicism, or Christianity in general, I did not feel it was fair to just pick one and expect them to go along with it. Should our children choose to be agnostic, atheist, Buddhist, Jewish, Catholic, etc. I will fully support them and their choice.

Some people, namely religious people, want to know how does one raise good children without formal religion. I was once asked, “How will they know about the ten commandments? ” Uh. Well. Most of them are incorporated into my everyday values and morals. I do not kill. I do not cheat. I do not lie. I do not steal. I do my best to see the good in others and have faith that things will work out for the best. This is also how I am raising my children by setting an example of myself, but also by continually  having conversations with them about what it means to be a good person.

We have a strong sense of family. Our children see my husband and I argue, and reconcile within the same conversation. We teach them to use their words, and express how they are feeling. Nothing is perfect and when things get tough we have each other to support and encourage. We have wonderful extended family that also are continually there for us. But not only this, we encourage our children to be free thinkers so that they can help themselves, and hopefully this will carry on through their adult years when we may no longer be able to help them.

We live the “Golden Rule”.  Treating others the way  you would want them to treat you, characterizes the way we raise our children. I use it as an example quite often to get my children to think about their comments or actions, even if it’s just a minor infraction.

Some of the morals and values we strive for in our household include:

Self awareness, respect, responsibility, confidence, independence, creative thinking, kindness, generosity, tolerance, compassion, and empathy. Not only are these values important towards other people, but also in regards to ourselves. We teach our children that not everyone is the same, and we should accept all differences even if we do not understand. I am confident that with all the knowledge we are bestowing upon our children they will have faith in themselves and humanity to do the right thing and figure out life on their own. I know I am raising good, moral children and I know other parents are too, with and without formal religion.